Monday, 31 March 2014

Video of the Day: 'Palace' by The Antlers

Rejoice, my friends, rejoice, for a new album by The Antlers is nearly upon us.'Familiars' will be released on June 16th in the UK on Transgressive Records (17th on the US on Anti). The first track, called 'Palace', arrived to day and it's an absolutely beautiful piece of work. Possibly the saddest trumpet I've ever heard gives way to hauntingly gorgeous but fragile vocals, and instantly reminds me why I love The Antlers so much. If the whole album's as emotional as this I'll be in pieces on the floor once I've heard it.

You can pre-order the the album here (in the UK) or here (in the US).

Friday, 28 March 2014

Track of the Day: 'Amphis' by Luke Abbott

Strap yourselves in, this is one hell of a trip. Taken from Abbott's forthcoming album 'Wysing Forest', this 12-minute piece feels like the soundtrack to one of those documentaries that explain how life first emerged from the sea and took to the land. Ambitious in scale but never bombastic, it's a really absorbing track. The album it comes from is out in June on Border Community Records, and is essentially a 52 minute piece built up from a series of live improvisations he created while artist in residence at Wysing Arts Centre in Cambridgeshire. Based on this it looks like being an essential purchase!

Remix of the Day #2: 'Klapp Klapp (Swindle Mix)' by Little Dragon

Here's your second one for today, a great new mix of Little Dragon's current single. Rather doing a radical remix, Swindle settles for taking all the good bits (which on this track is actually pretty much everything) and just making them all slightly better. It's a little bit faster, a little bit more harmonious, a little bit more jazzy, a little bit more danceable, and it's still a whole heap of fun.

Remix of the Day #1: 'A Simple Beautiful Truth (East India Youth Remix) by Wild Beasts

I wanted to post this yesterday but I was nowhere my laptop, which is why you'll get two for the price of one today. Building on his current support slot on the Wild Beasts tour, the marvellous Will Doyle a.k.a. East India Youth has crafted a mix that starts of sounding very muck luck it's one of his own tracks. Once the distinctive vocals start up then it sounds a lot more like a Wild Beasts song, but it still retains something of his own style throughout. I'm pretty sure it should now be compulsory for acts to remix each other when they tour together if this is the result - I look forward to Wild Beasts returning the favour - maybe a remix of 'Dripping Down' is in order?

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Recommended music: 'Touched By An Angle' a Crash Symbols compilation

This brilliant 33 track collection is available on a 'pay what you want' basis on Bandcamp, so if you're feeling hard up you can get it for nothing. Whatever you pay for it, it's worth the price for the first track alone - possibly the best thing The Cyclist (Andrew Morrison) has ever put out, full of woozy analogue sounds. And with only a few exceptions the rest of the album lives up to it. So what do you get for your money (or for nothing)? The tracks are mostly instrumental, and mostly electronic based, but across the sprawling two hours there's a huge range of styles and modus operandi on display.

It's a great introduction to a label that was previously unknown to me - most of their current roster of artists have provided new tracks, and there's also a couple from brand new acts who've yet to put out an album. I really can't recommend it highly enough, so have a listen and then download it for whatever you think it's worth.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Track of the Day: 'Breathe' by Iyes

It's almost exactly a year to the day since I saw Iyes play their first ever London Show, supporting Wave Machines at Village Underground. In this hectic, instant gratification world I guess I'm a bit surprised that they've been allowed to take their time and develop, putting just one or two tracks out between then and now. What they've emerged with is a seductive blend of the XX, Lorde and Four Tet for their new single 'Breathe', which was definitely worth the wait.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Remix of the Day: 'Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark) (Little Dragon Remix) by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

So, it appears that this actually came out about a year ago, but I've only just found it, and it's great, so I thought I'd share it with you. There's not a huge amount of the original track left to be honest, mostly just the title refrain, but who cares when what they've done with it is this good? Listen and download for free below.

Track of the Day: 'A Little God In Our Hands' by Swans

You always approach a new track by Swans with a little trepidation - Michael Gira's not one to step back from the brink, and sometimes his desire to push things forward can lead to music that at best can be described as challenging. I needn't have worried with this track through; it's just the right side of menacing. It gets a hypnotic groove on right at the start and keeps it up for the next 7 minutes. The thing it reminds me of most is Nick Cave at his most visceral, with bursts of noise and stabs of clarity underpinning Gira's threatening vocals.

Listen to the track or download it for free below.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Video of the Day: 'Benny Lava' by Swet Shop Boys

This new project features rappers Riz MC and Himanshu, and is perhaps the biggest clash of cultures you'll have heard in a long time. London vs New York, Pakistan vs India, Muslim vs Hindu - it's amazing that this track exists, but it does and it's great. Over a powerful track produced by Ryan Hemsworth the pair rap about both their differences and similarities, while the video sees them generally hanging out and shooting the shit together.

With an EP due later in the year, and a description of themselves as 'Bollywood + bass music + Bhangra + Qawalli + Trap + good music videos', this is definitely a pair to watch as 2014 progresses.

New podcast: Austerity Audio vol. 16

It's been a while I know, but I hope you'll agree that the latest edition of my podcast series was worth the wait. I've even bumped it up to 12 tracks this time to make up for keeping you hanging around.

As ever, the rules for pulling this together are simple. Each of these tracks is available freely and legally to download on the internet - all I've done is gather up the best that the web has to offer and compiled them into one pocket-sized podcast. Play it, download it and share it around - al I ask in return is that if there's something on here that you really like then you next time you have a few pence spare you buy a track or 3 from that artist to keep them going. Think about it - what would you rather do? Buy an overpriced milky beverage from tax-dodgers Starbucks, or buy a couple of tracks from a creative artist? Hopefully when I put it like that you'll agree with me that it's an easy choice to make. To download the podcast just right-click on the picture above and 'save as' - I hope you enjoy it! Here's the tracklisting:

  1. Temples - Mesmerize (The Time and Space Machine Remix)
  2. Teen Daze - Tokyo Winter
  3. The Cyclist - Heated Cliff
  4. Cut Copy - We Are Explorers (Larry Gus Remix)
  5. Phoenix - SOS In Bel Air (Ariel Pink's Krystal Bamboo Remix)
  6. Daniel John Marsden - You'll (Probably) Be OK
  7. Teleman - Lady Low
  8. Benjamin Shaw - Goodbye, Kagoul World
  9. Virgin of the Birds - Every Revelry
  10. Emika - Primary Colours
  11. Cyril Hahn - Getting There
  12. Falty DL - Hardcourage VIP

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Track of the Day: 'Hardcourage VIP' by Falty DL

Seemingly the title track from last year's 'Hardcourage' album, although it didn't actually appear on that record, this track is available for free download, although it's plenty good enough to have actually paid for. Starting off as a pretty heavy slice of electronica, it also develops some jazz drum breaks, a Four Tet-esque rhythm and lots more besides. It's a bit all over the place, but in a good way.

See what you make of it below.

Recommended music: 'Close To The Glass' by The Notwist

Despite the fact that The Notwist were formed back in 1989, and this is their sixth album, until about a month ago I don't think I'd heard any of their music. If this album is anything to go by then clearly I've made a terrible mistake, as this is exactly the kind of electronic-indie hybrid that I like to listen to.

The track that dragged me into the world of The Notwist was 'Kong', and it's still one of my favourites on the album. It's full of energy, ripping along at a cracking pace with some surprising strings at the end, and reminds me a bit of Grandaddy and some other things that I can't quite put my finger on (but which are all great). Here's the video:

The other tracks range from the full-on electronica of 'Lineri' to the lo-fi acousticness of 'Steppin' In', but whatever they're doing they always doing it really well. The title track, which you can hear below, is a great example of what they can do, mixing crunching electronics with acoustic guitars, crystal-clear vocals and some mournful atmospheric sounds.

Very much an essential purchase, and while you go off to buy this I resolve to go and sift through their back catalogue.

'Close To The Glass' is out now on City Slang Records.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Recommended music: 'New Gods' by Withered Hand

It's been a long wait (nearly 5 years) for this new Withered Hand album, and while both he and we might be a bit older and a bit wiser since 'Good News', Dan Willson's talent for writing great tunes with wry lyrics has certainly not depreciated.

The record mixes pacey numbers like 'Black Tambourine' with quieter, more introspective ones like 'Love Over Desire' and 'California', and he manages to pull it all off with aplomb. One of Willson's chief skills is in writing lyrics that the listener is able to dive right into and inhabit - at times funny, and at others heartbreaking, he never fails to deliver something that it utterly believable.

Overall the album is a more polished and mature record than 'Good News'. Perhaps the most telling sign of this new-found maturity is the title of 'Love Over Desire' - while there are still references to sex ("I was thinking of sex, you were dreaming of ruin" on 'Between True Love and Ruin', or the mention of 'travel pussy', which Dan has helpfully pointed out is a male sex toy you can buy from vending machines in European service stations), he seems to be driven more by the pull of his heart than the thrust of his groin these days.

The record ends with the perfectly uplifting 'Not Alone' - if you're not moved by the trumpets, and if you can manage to resist singing along with its 'na na na' chorus, then you're stronger willed than I am. In summary, this is a brilliantly crafted and immaculately executed album from one of the (hidden) treasures of our time. Listening to Dan Willson's songs is guaranteed to make you a better person. There's a couple from the album below to get you started.

PS Do it properly, go old school and buy it on gold vinyl.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Recommended music: 'Divine Ecstasy' by Supreme Cuts

Possibly the most brilliantly creative and inspired dance album you'll hear all year, and one that I predict will pick up more and more fans as the year goes on. The record moves effortlessly from dancefloor fillers to slow jamz and back again, all the while exuding class and style. The duo's Chicago roots show in some of the track but don't make the mistake of thinking that this is restricted to one specific genre of dance music - lots of bases are covered, and each one is done really well.

The choice of guest vocalists for the record is inspired. Channy Leaneagh from Poliça might be the most recognisable on the list, but Mahaut Mondino is a revelation, mixing the overt sexuality of Prince with a more subtle spirituality. His range is vast and his falsetto is immaculate.

Perhaps unusually for a dance album, especially one with a raft of guest vocalists,the record hangs together really well as a whole piece, and is perfectly book-ended by the Introduction and Epilogue, These two tracks, with their spoken vocals and heavily 80s vibes, put you in a perfect frame of mind to first enter the album and then leave it behind, like that moment when you emerge from a club blinking in the chill dawn air as the sun comes up. You can listen to a few of the album tracks below, but please make sure you buy the whole thing, I promise you won't be disappointed.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Track of the Day: 'So Now You Know' by The Horrors

The second track from their fourth album 'Luminous' hits familiar Horrors territory. I was actually a little bit disappointed with this as it's not really as forward thinking as some of their recent stuff, but it's still good to have the Southend boys back.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Recommended music: 'Alternate Worlds' EP by Son Lux

Following up last year's critically-acclaimed 'Lanterns' album comes this companion EP featuring alternate versions of some of the best tracks. More than just remixes, these are subtle reinventions of the tracks that give them new life for 2014. Most of the press is likely to focus on the new version of 'Easy' featuring Lorde, which came about after the New Zealand star covered the track live. It's more than just a new set of vocals though, with new drum patterns and a squally guitar added into the mix. I've always loved this track, and with each new version that comes out I love it even more. The rest of the tracks are equally as good though, and display an ever-growing confidence in his craft.

You can listen to the EP and purchase it below.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Track of the Day: 'Heated Cliff' by The Cyclist

For his first new track since last year's 'Bones In Motion' album (see here for a review of that), Andrew Morrison continues to mine a rich seam of woozy analogue sounds. Fading in like a heartbeat, it soon crackles into life, as layer upon layer of distorted, hissy melodies and drums pile into each other, The result is a hypnotic groove of a track that just gets better and better.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Track of the Day: 'Tokyo Winter' by Teen Daze

Taken from the new EP 'Paradiso', which is out on March 25th, this track is a great slice of electronica which closes the record. Over a bouncing, pulsing rhythm there's some great electronic melodies and a great, warm vibe, It's a pretty uplifting track which would seem to be a great way to close out a record, or even a live set, and gets me looking forward to what the rest of the EP has in store for us.

You can download the track for free below.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Where did all the good band names go?

OK, so music's been around a long time, and there have always been poor band names. The Beatles, for example, is a pun that soon wears pretty thin if you stop to think about it, and which many people didn't even realise was a pun and just put down to bad spelling. And The The would never make it as a band name today since it's pretty un-Googleable (see also A, and more recently following a telecoms merger, Everything Everything. But surely there must be some good names still to be had? Apparently not, if the selection of bands I've listed below are anything to go by. All of these acts are playing South by South West (SXSW) in Austin, Texas this year, a festival which is (or was until it was hijacked by the mass corporate hordes from Samsung to Doritos) designed to showcase up and coming new acts.If I was there this year I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be setting foot in front of any stage where this bunch of misnamed muppets were playing.

  1. Perfect Pussy. Scientifically proven to be the shittest band name ever thought up.
  2. The Front Bottoms. Mildly amusing, once, if you're a 13 year-old boy.
  3. Big Tits. See description for number 2.
  4. Cool Piss. Piss is not cool, either literally or metaphorically.
  5. Great Good Fine OK. Make your mind up, which one is it?
  6. Kraak & Smaak. It's not big and it's not clever.
  7. Diarrhea Planet. Apart from being a terrible name, that's not even how you spell it.
  8. DJ Hella Yella. I could've had a whole list devoted to DJ names, but this is the pick of the bunch.
  9. Ynfynyt Scroll. How are you even supposed to pronounce that? If it's Infinity then spell it like that dumbass.
  10. bEEdEEgEE. Lower case / Upper case nonsense.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

10 acts to see at SXSW 2014 (and how to see them)

It's time for my pick of this year's acts for you to see at SXSW. I know it can be a bit of a maelstrom, especially if it's your first trip to Austin - by the time you've worked out who you want see, and just how far apart Waterloo Records and the Mohawk are, and how everything you want to see is on at the same time, you might think you're not going to achieve anything. So before we get to my pick of the bands, here are a few tips on how to go about it:
  1. Most bands will play more than once. This is particularly true of the lesser-known acts, so if you see someone on the schedule that you want to check out, then scout around and see when else they are on. They might be only be playing one or two official showcases, but if they're going all the way from the UK or further you can pretty much guarantee they'll be playing a few parties as well. I've seen bands play 6 or 7 shows over 4 days, so you should be able to fit your key acts into the schedule.
  2. Social media is a must. Get on twitter, follow the official SXSW feed, accounts like SXSW Baby & SXSW Party List, and the bands you're interested in for all the latest news of who's playing where. Plans can changes at the drop of a hat, with new shows being added and last minute acts being announced, so make sure you're across the social platforms for all the latest news.
  3. Eat on the hoof (especially if it's free!). There's some great food to be had at some of the day parties, especially at the British Music Embassy and some of the other big parties in Brush Square. Free food while you're watching a band - what could be better? If not grab yourself a pulled pork sandwich or a taco on your way to the next show. If you do want to sit down and have a meal then the Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill on Red River Street is a great place to go.
  4. Keep your eyes peeled if you want to spot some of your favourite bands around town. Is that J. Mascis walking to his next show with his guitar in his hand? Are you walking behind Bob Geldof while he shouts at someone on his Blackberry? Is that Har Mar Superstar walking towards you on 5th Street (and will he high-five you as you pass)? All of these things happened last time I went (including the high-five!).
  5. And finally - be flexible. For all the great plans you might have made, sometimes the best times to be had at SXSW are those where you just go with the flow and live in the moment. You start talking to someone at a show, they've got the same musical taste as you, and they say they're about to go and see the best new band you've never heard of - go with them! What have you got to lose, they might become your new favourite band.
And now the acts to see:
  1. Drenge. A two-piece rock'n'roll outfit from Sheffield, Drenge (Danish for 'boys') are the two Loveless brothers, Eoin & Rory. They're full of energy, have got great melodies and hooks, and live it certainly sounds like there's more than 2 of them playing. They've got 4 shows at SXSW, culminating in a headline show at Latitude 30 on Saturday night.
  2. Marijuana Deathsquads. Possibly the most amazing live act you'll see, featuring somewhere between 2 & 4 drummers, heavily distorted vocals, keyboards, members of Poliça & Gayngs, and maybe even Har Mar Superstar. This collective has been described as 'Poliça's older, uglier bother' and once you've seen them I guarantee you'll never forget them.
  3. Damon Albarn. With his first ever solo album coming out next month Albarn will be bringing his new band to town to play through his new material. Having seen him play what will probably be the same set last week, I can say that the new songs are mature and extremely well written, mostly autobiographical and pretty laid back. Don't expect any Blur hits, but you're likely to get a few Gorillaz songs and a few other interesting moments thrown in.
  4. Vancouver Sleep Clinic. Unbelievably young (they're 17 but look about 13) this Australian trio sound a bit like Bon Iver, and a lot like they've got a very bright future ahead of them. The visas for their full tour were refused on account of their age and inexperience, but they are going to make it to Austin for a few shows, so make sure you see them.
  5. Withered Hand. One of the best singer-songwriters you'll find, Dan Willson has a good line in self-deprecating lyrics and a great ear for a tune. His second album 'New Gods' is out on 10th March. He's got a couple of official showcases, including of course one at the British Music Embassy.
  6. Teeth of the Sea. Like your rock proggy, spacey and tripped out? Then head for Teeth of the Sea at the Soho Lounge on Thursday. Having released their fourth and best album last year they're primed to take Austin by storm with their psychedelic rock masterpieces.
  7. Little Dragon. Having featured on the most recent albums by Gorrilaz and DJ Shadow, this Swedish act are about to hit the big time with the release of their next album 'Nabuma Rubberband' in May. Electronic music with a soul. 
  8. Eagulls. No strangers to controversy and column inches in the music press, Eagulls recently won an NME Award for best video. Unremarkable perhaps, until you know that the video on question featured timelapse photography or a rotting pig's brain that they'd left in a friend's basement, and which caused the Yorkshire police to become involved when someone mistook the decomposing object for a child's body.
  9. Lizzo. Not only can she rap the pants off you, but Lizzo sings like an angel and twerks better than Miley Cyrus. Go see her - I promise it'll be the most energy-filled show you see all week.
  10. Har Mar Superstar. It's always good to end with a party, and I've never been to a Har Mar Superstar show and failed to have a good time. With his latest album 'Bye Bye 17' receiving critical acclaim you'll be dancing, singing and smiling throughout.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Video of the Day: 'Goodbye, Kagoul World' by Benjamin Shaw

The lead single from Benjamin Shaw's new album comes with a video featuring the dogs and cats from his local animal shelter. It manages to be both cute and sad at the same time, thereby summing up Shaw's oeuvre in one simple clip (you can have that description for your flyers Ben; "Benjamin Shaw - he's cute and sad").

You can pre-order the album here, which comes with its own stress ball featuring a sad face that you can squeeze until it weeps (see, cute but sad again).

Friday, 7 March 2014

Remix of the Day: 'Love Letters (Soulwax Remix)' by Metronomy

This, my friends, kicks ass in a massive way. The groove kicks in as soon as it starts, Joseph Mount's vocals sound taught, like he's straining to prove how good the song is, and the backing singers end up sounding almost exactly like The Human League (which is obviously a very good thing). Definitely the best mix the Soulwax brothers have put together for a while. About two thirds of the way through the bass becomes even madder, there's a trumpet solo, and the whole things drags you into another disco dimension. Flat out awesome.

You can listen to it here again and again and again and again until it hurts

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Recommended music: 'Ghosts of Then and Now' by Illum Sphere

With his first full-length album for Ninja Tune, Illum Sphere (Ryan Hunn) has created a sonic landscape that accurately reflects his Manchester homeland. There's a wide range of influences that you can hear on these tracks, from Burial to Four Tet to Caribou to Jon Hopkins, and the whole thing combines to good effect, making a musical palette that blurs the boundaries of electronic music.

'It'll be over soon' even sounds quite a lot like latter-day Radiohead, and it's easy to see why he was asked to remix a track from 'The King of Limbs'.

Like the best albums, this is a record to really immerse yourself in. It's perfect for late night trains, long drives or dark evenings when the rain is lashing down outside. That's not to say there aren't a few dancefloor friendly tunes on here, but it works so well as a whole album that you really need to give it that time and attention.

You can buy the album on various physical and digital formats from the Ninja Tune shop here.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Live review - in pictures: BBC 6 Music Festival, Victoria Warehouse, Manchester 28/2/14

The inaugural 6 Music festival had its first day yesterday - 2 live stages and a silent disco held in an old warehouse just a short hop on the tram from Media City. We arrived about 4.30 and dived straight in to catch the end of Weird Shapes in Room 2, one of the bands selected for the bill by BBC Introducing.

Weird Shapes onstage 28/2/14
There were bottlenecks moving between the 2 stages, but we squeezed our way through the gap and emerged into the much bigger Room 1 to see Luke Sital-Singh. He opened with an absolutely storming number, and while the rest of his set was good it didn't quite live up to the power of the start. For me he's definitely at his best when he's got an electric guitar in his hands.

Luke Sital-Singh live 28/2/14
Next up it was back to Room 2 for the brilliant Drenge. I don't know how they manage to make so much noise with just the 2 of them playing, but they were awesome. 'Bloodsports' incited a full-on mosh pit and people bounced off each other while the sound bounced off the concrete walls. They're sure to be a festival fixture throughout the summer, so make sure you catch them.

Drenge, 6 Music Festival 28/2/14
Back to the main room for Kelis. She put on. Good show but the sound mix was poor and it was all a bit 'Vegas revue' style for us, so after hearing the classic 'Milkshake' we headed outside for some food.

Midlake never disappoint, and tonight they were on fine form. They always sound to me like a band who properly practice together - their sound is much more powerful live  and they just feel like a 'proper' band. They played a good mix of old and new stuff - of the new ones 'The Old and The Young' has now developed into a proper live 'moment' and sounds built for festivals.

Midlake at the Victoria Warehouse 28/2/14
Towards the end of their set they were joined by collaborator John Grant, who flew in from Iceland just to perform one song, the brilliant 'Sigourney Weaver'.

John Grant with Midlake at the 6 Music Festival 28/2/14
Not many people would have the nerve to play their first gig with a new band headlining a festival that was being broadcast live, while also showcasing a brand new album that people haven't heard, but Damon Albarn has got the balls to pull it off.

Damon Albarn solo (but with his new band) 28/2/14
Despite a few ignorant people in the audience who weren't prepared to give the new stuff a try, he played a great set. The new songs have got a great feel to them (I confidently predict a Mercury Prize nomination) and he threw in a few curve balls from his back catalogue as well. The band he's put together to play live are really good and I for one think it's great that he continues to evolve and mature as an artist. He might lose a few beery 'Parklife' fans as a result but I'm definitely sticking with him. Here's the setlist:

  • Everyday Robots
  • Hostiles
  • Lonely Press Play
  • Tomorrow Comes Today
  • The Selfish Giant
  • You & Me
  • On Melancholy Hill
  • Hollow Ponds
  • Photographs (You Are Taking Now)
  • Kingdom of Doom
  • All Your Life
  • Mr Tembo
  • El Mañana
  • Heavy Seas Of Love
Damon at the keyboard 28/2/14